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Tank Girl: Carioca
Authors: Alan Martin and Mike McMahon
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN-10: 0-8576-8743-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-8576-8743-2

The anarchic Tank Girl comic book began in 1988 in the pages of Deadline, a counterculture British magazine. Written by Alan Martin and drawn by Jamie Hewlett (the two had just met while playing in a rock band), Tank Girl became an image for counterculture protest. To quote Wikipedia, “Tank Girl became quite popular in the politicized indie countercuture zeitgeist as a cartoon mirror of the growing empowerment of women in punk rock culture. Posters and t-shirts began springing up everywhere, including one especially made for the Clause 28 march against Margaret Thatcher’s legislation. Clause 28 stated that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.’ Deadline publisher Tom Astor said, ‘In London, there are even weekly lesbian gatherings called ‘Tank Girl nights.’'”

The original Tank Girl cartoons were collected and published as regular comic books from 1991 to 1993, in America by Dark Horse Comics. There was a 1995 feature film. Since then, there were several independent Tank Girl comic book miniseries or graphic novels. Around 2001, Hewlett turned over his partnership in Tank Girl to Martin, to concentrate on new projects in rock music, comics, advertising art, and animation centered around his new group, Gorrilaz. Martin has written new Tank Girl adventures illustrated by different artists. In Britain Titan Books has become the authorized publisher of Tank Girl reprints and new works. Tank Girl: Carioca, written by Martin and drawn by Mike McMahon, a popular artist on the Judge Dredd features in the British 2000 AD comic magazine during the 1970s, was originally published by Titan Magazines as a three-issue British comic book from October to December 2011. Now it has been collected into a hardcover, 136-page graphic novel.

Tank Girl is an anarchic teenager who roars about the post-apocalyptic Australian outback in a tank, committing outrageous acts of public indecency. “She is prone to random acts of sex and violence, hair dyeing, flatulence, nose-picking, vomiting, spitting, and more than occasional drunkenness,” according to Wikipedia. She is invariably accompanied by her sexual partner Booga, a chain-smoking mutant red kangaroo, and Team Tank Girl, a half-dozen or so human groupies who follow her orders.

Carioca opens with Tank Girl and Booga deliriously overjoyed because they have gotten tickets to the mega-popular TV show Quizbingo. They are even more thrilled to be selected from the audience as players. But TV host Charlie Happy says that Tank Girl misses her question, when she is sure that she answered correctly. When an electronic-genius friend provides the proof that Charlie Happy cheated her on live TV, Tank Girl decides to take more gruesome vengeance than just suing him. She, Booga, and Team Tank Girl work out a grisly Rube-Goldbergian scheme to publicly hang, draw, and quarter him outside the TV studio.

But the vengeance leaves Tank Girl strangely unfulfilled. “Then a disturbingly eerie feeling came over me. For possibly the first time in my life, I questioned what I had done. I left the party and spent the night in a cave in quiet contemplation.” She decides to start a New Age religion: Carioca. “From now on, my days will be dedicated to awakening my dormant psychic capabilities and to unblocking my congested charkas.” Jet Girl, one of Team Tank Girl, refuses to become a wussie, but everybody else dresses in white and says “Ommmmm.”

But the world will not cooperate. The new pacifists have to put their newfound ways to old-fashioned violence to save the hamlet of Dungtown from “Grape” Skinner and his Arse Bandits. Then they are attacked by a team of costumed assassins hired by U-Leen Happy, the widow of Charlie, who wants revenge against Tank Girl and her team. By the time that our Good Guys have killed everybody else, they have gotten tired of preaching non-violence and go back to boozing it up.

Tank Girl has a long history of popularity, but its foul-mouthed emphasis on a chaotic plot of comedically exaggerated gory violence is an acquired taste. Mike McMahon’s Judge Dredd art (he also drew 2000 AD’s Sláine and ABC Warriors) was reportedly one of the influences on Hewlett’s original Tank Girl art, so it is hard to criticize it, but it is too abstract and surrealistic for the cartoon mayhem to work as well as Hewlett’s art did. If you already have a demand for Tank Girl, then Tank Girl: Carioca will please your readers. Otherwise, start out with The Cream of Tank Girl or one of Titan Books’ other collections of the original comics by Martin and Hewlett.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

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